SPECIAL AGENT: My Life on the Front Lines As a Woman in the FBI
DeLong offers a lively account of a single mother's 20 years in America's most conservative federal law enforcement agency. She was a registered nurse, seasoned by work in locked psychiatric wards, when a romance with a veteran agent led her to apply to the FBI. Her initiation in 1980 at the Quantico training academy was a grueling process of "flush[ing] out the weak," at a time when the old guard—and even many younger agents—remained openly hostile to the notion of female agents. DeLong shrewdly addresses such gender issues, depicting how the first women agents forced a sea change to a more integrated FBI. She reminisces acidly about institutional sexism ("Somehow fathers who placed themselves in physical jeopardy were deemed valiant... while mothers were considered irresponsible"), and her work tracking sexual predators has left her highly aware of "the evil that men do." DeLong initially performed research and telephone work, notably on the 1982 Tylenol murders, and won the loyalty and friendship of forward-thinking male peers. She at last moved on to undercover work on major cases—including long-term surveillance of a terrorist bombing cell, the Chicago-based FALN (members' sentences were recently commuted by President Clinton) and the Unabomber—and provides gripping accounts of these events. She also became an early proponent of "profiling"—a technique scorned early on by many cops until its worth was proved and it was made famous by agent John Douglas (Mindhunter, etc.). Primarily a personal memoir, with DeLong contemplating her transformations as a woman and mother, this is a valuable look at the procedures and rituals of a notoriously cloistered organization. DeLong also brings to her reminiscences a lightness and humor rarely associated with the "Feebies." (May)
Forecast: A 10-city author tour and national radio satellite touro should capitalize on a national fascination with crime and the FBI.